A response to the unimaginable cruelties that became our new quotidian in 2020, that moves musically and discursively through innovative permutations of lyric form.
CRUEL/CRUEL is the manifestation of a Black, queer voice grappling with the intricacies of (un)belonging and identity. These poems use genres of queerness and race to reckon with the pervasive power of oppressive institutions, shaped by art and a soundtrack of Black musical traditions of resistance: from jazz to soul to experimental to hip hop. A hybrid visual and literary object, CRUEL/CRUEL feels relentlessly present, and yet emphasizes the archival and documentary as intrinsic to our personal and collective survivals.
Dior J. Stephens’ CRUEL/CRUEL is a testament to queer interiority, an ode to the Saturn return, and a celebration of language itself. If you delight in “FEMBOY NAILS CLAWING UP RAFTERS OF HYPERCRITICALITY,” or if you’ve ever wanted to ride in a “salted/shroom submarine” then this book is your book. Do as the speaker advises in one of these fantastic poems and “open your windows”—let this book in
“Stephens’s beguiling book puzzles out the interconnections of seemingly opposing forces as it wrestles with issues of race, language, and legibility in the wake of 2020’s twin cataclysms of police violence and COVID-19.”